When Jade Longo was 18, her mother received treatment for cancer at a nursing home. Now, Longo works at the same nursing home as a recreational therapist. Her role allows her to give back to the community, using the skills she has gained as a social work major at Rutgers–Brookdale. In an unprecedented situation, she has learned to adapt to the world of quarantine, dealing with deaths, social isolation, and new methods of treating residents.
The social worker who treated her mother left a lasting impression on Longo. She was interested in more than just a health checkup, and often stopped to ask, “How are you?” Throughout her time in college, Longo explored varied interests and majors including psychology and nursing. Longo was drawn to social work due to her own experience and memory, and the major was the “only thing that covered all of the bases” for her. After various college programs, she chose to attend the Rutgers–Brookdale program due to location and convenience.
At work, Longo gets to “apply things” that she learns in her Rutgers–Brookdale classes “every day.” While at the nursing home, she says that she is “learning things that I couldn’t learn from the textbook.” In turn, the school material seems “more important’ to her now that she is applying it to a real-world situation.
She learns not only from her work and courses, but also from the geriatric population. She believes that everyone can learn from the advice of older generations, who remind her, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
COVID-19 “took a huge toll” on both Longo and the residents she treats regularly. Confusion and depression run high among the population, she says, and many miss their friends and families. Losing patients has been especially difficult and because of the virus, the facility “lost more residents in two months” than they typically do in a year.
Many patients face depression, no longer able to participate in recreational activities or see their friends and families. Many now wish they were able to get active with their fellow residents. They have had to adopt new methods of communication and technology in order to communicate with families.
Despite the situation, Longo says that there have been “a lot of beautiful moments,” including reunions, parades, window visits, live entertainment, and clap outs for every person who is recovered from COVID-19.
Set to graduate in 2021, Longo is open to various opportunities that her social work degree may afford. She envisions herself either working with children, within the criminal justice system, or in her current role with the geriatric population.
Adapting to virtual courses has been difficult, particularly in a program that depends upon social interaction and in-person instruction. However, Longo found that “some teachers went above and beyond” to help students feel connected.
The Rutgers-Brookdale program allows students to complete select baccalaureate degrees at the Brookdale Community College main campus location. Courses are taught by Rutgers faculty but allow students the flexibility to stay close to home and complete degrees through a combination of daytime, evening, in-person, hybrid and online classes. (Note: currently, due to COVID-19, all classes are being offered remotely).
This story originally appeared on the Rutgers Continuing Education website.